Sunday, February 04, 2018

Land of the Laps. Totesformat.

Totstellen - Mein Licht Beleuchtet Nur Abregunde
Totes Format. Totform10. CDR/Booklet.
50 copies.

GRMMSK/Neuvoksi - Punk on Kuollut
Totes Format. Totform06. DVD

Concrete/Field & Coldsore - Losing Ground
Totes Format. Totform24 Cassette.
25 Copies.

Cluny - Coffin Surfboards
Totes Format. Totform25. Cassette.
25 copies.

I’m not sure if Mr GRMMSK and Mr Totstellen are the same person or not. Lets say they are, it makes things so much easier. I think he’s German and now lives in Finland, in a wooden hut, in the middle of a spruce forest, in the middle of nowhere where he makes his own synths and noise boxes and when time allows recycled cassette releases. This information partly gleaned from the regular posts that appear on his Twatter feed. I’ve had Totes Format material through these hands before the highlights of which were by GRMMSK [field recordings made inside bridge supports] and some dub influenced ambience by an outfit going by the name of Kemia that blew me sideways, a Basinski/Prince collab if you can imagine such a thing. There were others too but these were standouts. Well worth seeking out, thats if you can get hold of them. Short runs, homemade covers. These things tend not to hang around for long but there are exceptions.

With two new releases to foster on us Mr. GRMMSK also sent me a couple of his back catalogue that were no doubt in danger of rotting away in the leaf mulch. The DVD being a mixed bag and the one with the long German title being a near lost epic. The DVD is a tour DVD and after trawling through raw footage of the local drunk in a Lapland roadside cafe and a road movie made up of quick edit dash-cam footage of the monotonous never changing tree lined Finnish countryside, the differing sounds of the engine providing a chopped up rhythm of sorts, made me wonder why the entire Finnish population isn’t addicted to chemical stimulants. The GRMMSK footage appears to be some kind of poetry reading where one reader just looks at his book and plays a recording of what sounds like James Baldwin reciting his work while the other stumbles around in braces, his head covered in bandages, writing words on huge sheets of paper with a chisel marker. All this to a punk soundtrack with the lyrics superimposed on to the screen in BLOCK CAPITALS. At least I discovered Neuvoksi, a guitar and drum duo, she with an amp on her head, he with a drum on his head creating raucous ninety second blasts of punk racket that are a cross between a Finnish Ramones and Lightning Bolt. A half hours worth of about four stuck together gigs, one taking place in a shop window. Its the same couple who were talking to the drunk in the Lapland roadside cafe. Neu and Voksi. Finland is a strange place.

The Totstellen release ‘Mein Licht Beleuchtet Nur Abregunde’ is a near perfect collage of field recordings, found sounds, loops, unsettling atmospheres and multiple voices as recorded on a road trip through various European countries undertaken ten years ago. I made some notes; a bus starting up, geese, ducks, talk, hard wheels over cobbles, a loop of a buskers violin, a gentle breeze, trains, running water, rain on a tin roof, thunderclaps, barking dogs, a knife being sharpened on a whetstone, a distant storm, a sliding door shutting/opening, dogs panting, mechanical diggers, footsteps in the snow, unlubricated metal on metal, squeaky gates, someone struggling with a huge sheet of plastic, chainsaws, a skipping CD, ethnic music and silence. The silence makes all the difference. With so many sound sources coming at you, you need the break to make it all come together and while some of the sound sources are hardly original the clarity of the recordings and the production overall lifts it from the mundane. Stand out track is ‘Fuer Die Noch Lebenden Toten’ [For the Surviving Dead] which begins with an ear rattling foghorn blast before stretching out into rather darker territory, the tapping of pipes, a deathly funereal beat and eventually a solemn voice reciting a litany of everything that is dead. The silk screened  CD sleeve has been hand stitched as has the booklet of black and white images taken from the trip. This remarkable release is around ten years old and still available.

So much for the old stuff what about the new stuff? The Concrete/Field & Coldsore split is, for the most part, heavily indebted to the kind of industrial ambience Throbbing Gristle created, all groaning machinery and grinding rhythms. The Coldsore track going for the humming glow lamp drone in a Pan Sonic/Einsturzende Neubauten kind of way. The Concrete/Field track is a slow moving piece of Industrial rhythm where a sample of someone making noises with the back of their throat is mistaken for Dieter Müh. 

Cluny meanwhile are described as ‘creepy-crawl basement hip-hop’. Lets leave that there. Both cassettes are hand etched and looking good as they say somewhere trendy. The former is even available as a free download. I like Totes Format.




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